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What are people talking about when they say this Sunday is the first day of summer or refer to the 'summer solstice?' We've already suffered through some serious heat so far this year in Louisiana and it's a little weird to realize that summer doesn't even officially begin until Sunday, June 20, 2021. We've already recorded heat indices in the triple digits, so what gives?

What is the summer solstice? In short, it's the longest day of the year. But Wikipedia get's a little more detailed:

The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the star that it orbits.

The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere's summer. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the summer solstice occurs some time between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere[2][3] and between December 20 and December 23 each year in the southern hemisphere.[4] The same dates in the opposite hemisphere are referred to as the winter solstice.

if I'm understanding this correctly, every day past this Sunday until we reach the winter solstice will get progressively shorter. Isn't it amazing that hundreds of years ago, before we had calculators and telescopes and computers, that people were able to track this information? Mind blown! Of course, both the summer and winter solstices have parts in pagan and Wiccan practices. I imagine women in white gowns with flower crowns in their hair dancing barefoot in the woods chanting when I think of the summer solstice. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about that:

 Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of religion or fertility.[5]

Of course, the summer solstice is about more than a super long, hot day. A lot of people look at it as a spiritual day:

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